Happy summer campers

Friday, July 23, 2004

Friendly teasing and laughter filled the park Thursday afternoon as the children from Camp Super Nova learned archery.

It had all the elements of a typical day except that the children from Camp Super Nova have special needs that, until four years ago, often couldn't be met by the other summer camps in the area.

The two-day camp, offered by Southeast Missouri Hospital's Main Street Fitness in Jackson, gives children with problems like autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and developmental delay the opportunity to enjoy the summer camp experience like any other child.

"Everyone deserves the right to play," Debbie Leoni, wellness manager at Main Street Fitness, said, "There just wasn't anything for them, so we thought why not us."

The participants were excited as Scott Givens, manager of Main Street Fitness, began explaining how to use the bow and arrow sets and, though they were a little shy at first, he quickly had four volunteers.

Main Street Fitness staffers and their helpers distributed the equipment and helped the campers set up their shots. Many of the children's first arrows didn't quite reach the targets a short distance away but they weren't discouraged.

Myra Reisenbichler, of Jackson, said her daughter Emily, 16, talks about the camp all year. Emily, who has Down syndrome, was up and ready to go at 5 a.m. Thursday, even though the camp doesn't begin until 9 a.m., Reisenbichler said.

"She enjoys it immensely," Reisenbichler said, "and even though it's only two days she learns so much."

The children weren't bothered by the heat, either, as they took turns. The helpers continued to encourage the children as new shooters came forward and cheers went up whenever someone hit a target.

Emily caught on quickly and sent her arrow into the target on her second turn.

"They're having a good time," said Kristin Foster, an intern from Southeast Missouri State University, said, " and they're around people who are like them."

Nancy Robertson of Cape Girardeau has sent her son Pierce, 14, to the camp since it opened and this year sent her son Corey, 9, along as a junior volunteer. Pierce has a pervasive developmental disorder.

"He absolutely loves the camp," Robertson said, "and it's comforting to see the same steady faces running the camp every year."

Fifteen children of all ages are enrolled in the program this year. Thursday, before archery, the children decorated hats and water bottles and planned to go bowling and learn about dental care after lunch. For the second day of the camp, the campers will get to make instruments, visit Arena Golf, and go swimming at the park.

dfarley@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 226

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